.Berkeley High’s Drug Problem?

The Berkeley Unified School District has commissioned a task force to address the district’s apparent drug and alcohol issue, according to the Berkeley Daily Planet. The 2008 California Healthy Kids Survey revealed that among Berkeley High eleventh graders, 52 percent said that they had drunk alcohol and 45 percent said that they smoked pot in the last thirty days – and furthermore, 54 percent of eleventh graders said that they had been drunk or high on school grounds. This represents a fairly dramatic increase from the 2006 survey and shows that Berkeley’s kids are showing up to school wasted at a rate the Daily Planet says is twice the state and national average.

According to the article, Superintendent Bill Huyett and school board directors expressed concern when this year’s results were presented at a meeting in March. Last week, the district’s manager of student welfare and attendance, Javier Mendieta, announced that the district would be pulling together a special group of parents, teachers, and city and district staff to develop a plan to address Berkeley’s alcohol and drug use.

While no district wants its students blazed or blitzed on school grounds, and Huyett and the school board have wisely called for a plan that appears to be far from the draconian (and historically unsuccessful) DARE-style tactics many districts use, there’s certainly weight to some school board members’ concern that Berkeley’s drug-tolerant atmosphere has something to with this. After all, in a city where weed is practically legal, and in a district characterized by a discipline style that could best be called laissez-faire (an anonymous Berkeley High alum tells the Express he smoked a joint during class with no one so much as batting an eye) are we really all that surprised?

– Ellen Cushing

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